The south side of Chicago is where all the drug addicts and the very-very poor people live — my friends rushed to throw this fact in, about where to stay in Windy City. Yet here we are: 11pm at night, sitting in a car and heading south.
The scenery does indeed change block-by-block. Once we pass south loop, the road becomes full of patches and potholes, and at one point we suddenly smell the very distinctive smell of marijuana. In the car, with the air filter on, in the middle of a four-lane road we ask ourselves: where can this smell possibly come from?
The weed cloud comes from one of the cars around. It’s not uncommon to smoke-and-drive here.
Could be worse.
My friend from high school, our guide for the night, works here in one of the world’s most famous hospitals: University of Chicago is where the first controlled chain reaction has been carried out. “Quietly, in secrecy, on a squash court under the west stands of old Stagg Field.”
Some of the hospital’s patients have AIDS, some Hepatitis A, B or C, and as you might have guessed: there are patients with all of those. Yet, it could be worse.
When we drive around the houses, we see many demolished buildings. With so many homeless people out there it’s hard to see what sense it makes to break houses down, but I’m actually impartial on this: if everyone moves out from one house, drug addicts and their dealers quickly move in. The state demolishes these houses to keep violence out, which does bring some transparency into a neighbourhood.
Street safety is a priority issue, especially since Chicago overtook Los Angeles in homicide rates. A dark police car is stationed at the corner of every second block. Perhaps that’s going to help, but I’m crossing my fingers now: “let’s not get a flat tire here”.
After the quick visit we are heading back downtown and have a cocktail in one of the clubs. There is Kooks on the radio, I put my phone on charge, and realise that I haven’t made any pictures in those last three hours.
Yeah, could be worse.